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Gut Check Time For Dallas Stars As They Face Elimination At The Hands Of St. Louis Blues Tonight

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It's a must-win for the Dallas Stars if they don't want to be on the golf course next week. They travel to St. Louis looking for a win to tie the series -- not unlike the last time they were in that town.

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Sports cliches exist because of situations like this. You're down in a game, a match, a series, and you're looking for anything to provide that extra oomph to get past the cuts, the bruises, the sore muscles, the more serious injuries. "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" and all that jazz.

Dallas finds themselves on the brink of elimination, staring at a giant bumper sticker that says "If not now, when?"

Win tonight, and you have a chance to win the series at home in front of 18,000 screaming fans rooting for you. Lose today, and ride off into the summer with a bitter taste at coming up shorter than you'd prefer. The stakes have never been higher than they are at this moment for the Dallas Stars this season.

So how can Stars fans find confidence in the team today?

You can cite their regular season record, which showed more success than failure this season. You can look at how they figured out a way to win the most difficult division in the NHL this season when everyone said their goaltending and defense wouldn't get them far.

Recently, you can point to the diversity faced in the first round against a similar style and the fact that they overcame it to eliminate the Minnesota Wild in round one. You can also rest easy that in a similarly important game in St. Louis for Game 4, they went into the opponent's barn and found a win.

We haven't seen the best of the Dallas Stars this series. They're missing top center Tyler Seguin still, but could get forward Patrick Eaves back tonight to help with the power play net-front presence that could help them to turn the tide tonight. But Dallas experienced similar personnel shortages near the end of the season, and had a record so good that they won the division and Western Conference on the back of it.

They still have Jamie Benn. They still have Jason Spezza. They still have Radek Faksa, Ales Hemsky, John Klingberg. Pieces more than capable of imposing their will on the St. Louis Blues tonight.

Of course you could point to defensive play and goaltending as potential reasons for the Stars to fold tonight. The Blues are healthy, in front of their home crowd, and with the chance to move into a Conference final for the first time in 15 years. Motivation abounds for the home team.

But there is always going to be a weakness that can be exploited from the mental side of the game. These Blues have squandered series leads for the past several seasons. They've fallen every time. Get that first goal, lock it down for a while, and play the Stars style and maybe that seed of doubt creeps in, the one that says "Here we go again".

Puck drop is at 7:00 PM CST tonight on NBCSN or you can stream it here using your cable provider login.

"No excuses. No explanations. You don't win on emotion. You win on execution." - Tony Dungy